CUPE applauds Campaign for Public Education’s calls for review and overhaul of funding formula

November 15, 2017

TORONTO – The union representing 55,000 education workers in Ontario is applauding the Campaign for Public Education’s (CPE) latest effort to secure a review and overhaul of the province’s outdated funding formula.

“CUPE has been calling for a review and overhaul of the funding formula for years,” said Terri Preston, who chairs CUPE’s education sector in Ontario. “The analysis provided by CPE adds to the growing body of evidence that this is urgent. It’s clear that the current funding formula is inadequate to meet the needs of students, communities, and education workers.”

A funding formula reliant mainly on head counts and based on the notion that schools are just a collection of classrooms will never meet the needs of students. Students and parents live this reality every day, and CUPE’s custodial and maintenance workers have long pointed this out.

“The lack of funding for maintenance and infrastructure repair creates cascading problems,” said Vern Andrus, trades representative for CUPE’s education sector workers, and a head custodian with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board. “When we have to close down part of an aging building because we don’t have the funds to maintain or repair it, students get squeezed, and the learning environment suffers. When maintenance and infrastructure budgets are stripped of funds to pay for other vital but underfunded programs – like mandated small class sizes or full-day kindergarten – kids suffer. We know very well that the physical infrastructure of schools contributes to the learning environment of the child.”

“A formula that is averaged out across school boards without regard for differences in geography, demographics and building age can never be responsive to the diverse needs of students in Ontario,” said Preston. “CPE has pointed out that by the end of 2019 the deferred maintenance budget total will have increased yet again. They’ve also pointed out the glaring absence of a provincial standard for building maintenance. It’s just not sustainable. We support in particular CPE’s call for a complete review of the funding formula in every respect, and their call for an increase of the operations and maintenance budget by at least 8.7%, to meet a consistent province-wide standard.”

CUPE represents 55,000 workers in the education sector, across all four school board systems (English and French, Catholic and public), including educational assistants, early childhood educators, custodians, tradespeople, school administrators, payroll and IT clerks, library technicians and more.

For more information:

Andrea Addario, CUPE Communications, 416-738-4329

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Gilles Bouffard

CUPE – Ontario Regional Office

80 Commerce Valley Drive East

Markham, ON   L3T 0B2

Telephone: 905-739-3999 Ext. 275

Fax: 905-739-4001

gbouffard@cupe.ca

OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM IS IN CRISIS!

What is it going to take before the powers that be listen to what we have been saying for at least the past three years and do what is necessary to make our education system what it needs to be for our children?

“Between 1995-96, when the Harris government was first elected, and 1998-99, the first year of the new education funding formula, the Conservative government cut a total of $1.5 billion from education. In today’s dollars, that amount equals $2.2 billion”.  Although the Liberal government has made some increases to education funding since then, the increased needs in the classroom have well surpassed the funding provided.

“When enrolment, inflation, the cost of new programs and the element of catch-up reflected in education system salaries and benefits are considered, education funding in 2017-2018 is roughly equivalent to the level recommended by the Rozanski Task Force Report on education funding in 2002. While that is a positive sign, it essentially reflects no progress at all in addressing the fundamental funding issues built into the base funding formula introduced for the 1998-99 school year”.  

Those of us who work in the education sector will tell you, the schools of 2002 are not the schools of 2017-2018. The same issues we are seeing in society are magnified in the classroom. Increased numbers of those living in poverty, an increase in mental illness and addictions, an increase in the number of people living with autism, and so on.

The education funding formula and the ‘Tier System’ used by School Boards to determine which students ‘qualify’ for the support of a Special Ed. Assistant needs a complete overhaul. The reality is that a Special Ed. Assistant will be assigned one student who qualifies for support but then are also assigned 5 or 6 additional students who require support but do not meet the criteria for support. These students may have ADHD, learning disabilities, mental health issues, or simply have not yet developed the ability to control their impulses.

Many of our Special Education Assistants divide their day between multiple classrooms. Every minute of their day is scheduled to be supporting students. Coffee breaks and lunch breaks are often missed because there is not enough E.A. staff to cover for them. In some cases, students with special needs are left on their own for periods of time because there is nobody available to support them.

Many students, some with special needs and some without, are erupting violently because their needs are not being met. But violence in the classroom is just a symptom of the bigger issue: inadequate funding for Special Ed. Assistant staffing, inadequate funding for smaller class sizes, and inadequate funding for the professional development and specialized training of educators and support staff.

 

Vicky Evans,

President, CUPE Local 4148

 

 

Quotes on the funding formula were taken from the ETFO document titled ‘ETFO: 7 Recommendations to Fix Ontario’s Education Funding Formula’

Every Child Matters: September 30 is Orange Shirt Day

 

September 30 is Orange Shirt Day.

Orange Shirt Day acknowledges the harm that Canada’s residential school system has done to generations of indigenous families and their communities. It affirms our commitment to ensure that everyone around us matters.

Orange Shirt Day opens a conversation about the legacies of the residential schools — a conversation all Canadians must have. It is a day for survivors to know that they matter. It is a day to acknowledge the past and commit to a more inclusive future.

Orange Shirt Day grew out of Phyllis Webstad’s own experience at residential school. On the first day of school, her shiny new orange shirt, given to her by her grandmother, was taken away from her. Phyllis organized the first Orange Shirt Day in 2013.

The Aboriginal Council of CUPE Ontario urges CUPE members to show support and encourage participation in Orange Shirt Day this September 30. Participation is very easy: wear an orange shirt, and tell people why.

On minimum wage debate, analysts are missing the forest for the trees

SHANNON ROHAN AND KEVIN THOMAS

CONTRIBUTED TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SEPTEMBER 10, 2017

Investment analysts need to ask some hard questions when business groups say the planned increase in Ontario’s minimum wage may force companies to raise prices on consumer goods and slash jobs.

In recent analyst calls held by Metro Inc. and Loblaw Cos. Ltd., executives indicated that planned minimum-wage increases in Alberta and Ontario would add significantly to labour expenses and put pressure on the industry in 2018. Both companies are committed to mitigating those impacts by accelerating efficiencies and achieving cost reductions, but the take-away for analysts was that the retail industry is facing a significant cost increase in the short term.

Unfortunately, that echoes the prevailing view among many on Bay Street and in executive suites across the country – that workers are exclusively a cost to the business. That may be why investment analysts walk away from these quarterly calls only having heard – and only having asked, for that matter – about the cost side of the equation.

The other side of the equation warrants much more attention: how paying higher wages and improving workplace practices can be an investment in the business.

There is strong evidence that paying workers more, offering meaningful training and promotion opportunities and providing predictable schedules and hours – in short, the type of labour-law reforms now on the table in Ontario – can result in better business outcomes. Businesses that implement a decent work strategy can benefit from more loyal, hard-working and productive employees. They can realize productivity gains, higher retention and lower turnover, and ultimately better financial performance.

For example, research conducted by MIT professor Zeynep Ton found that companies that nurture their employees and pursued a good jobs strategy achieved improved operational execution, ultimately resulting in higher sales and profits in the retail stores that she studied.

Similarly, a study by the Boston Consulting Group found that over a 10-year period, companies that appeared at least three times on the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work list outperformed the S&P 500 by 99 percentage points.

In Ontario, a recently formed group of businesses provide living proof that decent work can pay off. The Better Way to Build the Economy Alliance (BWA) is a group of employers that support decent work and are benefiting from greater productivity and profitability for their businesses while at the same time improving job and income security for their workers. These employers will be coming together to share their experiences on Sept. 12 in Toronto at a conference hosted by the Centre for Labour Management Relations and the Better Way Alliance.

We will be there to provide a perspective from the growing number of investors in Canada and around the world that are recognizing the business benefits associated with decent work. We’ll be speaking about why investors and investment analysts need to start seeing the forest and not just the trees when considering the implications of labour-law reforms.

To do that, on the next round of quarterly analyst calls, let’s ask how companies intend to take advantage of the positive opportunities afforded by Ontario’s Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Act. How will they capture increases in consumer spending as a result of the boost to the minimum wage? How will they seek to deploy their employees in ways that will improve their customer-service scores? How will they invest in their workers to improve internal promotion and retention rates? How will they manage the short-term increases in labour expenses to make them more competitive in the long run?

These kinds of questions will give us a much more accurate picture of how companies are productively and successfully managing their work forces. They will also help to communicate to corporate executives that investors support innovative strategies that build long-term value and that we understand the benefits of fairer workplaces and a more equitable economy.

We will not let the virus of hate spread.

CUPE ONTARIO·MONDAY, AUGUST 14, 2017

Hate crawled up from the sewers of Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday and flooded the streets with thousands of white men baring torches and chanting unbelievable hatred.

Many thought we were past such horrors, that the days of torches and pitch forks held high by angry white men screaming hate were gone for good. We might have hoped that the racist haters that still exist understand that this kind of venom just won’t be tolerated by most people in our society.

With Friday’s rally of violent white supremacists this hope died. What happened in Charlottesville was an overt manifestation of what is experienced by millions of First Nations, Black, south Asian, Hispanic and most non-white people everyday. What is exceptional about this moment, is that there is a President in the US who has been fanning the flames of racist hatred.

None of us can afford to stay silent. The future of our society is at stake. And we cannot be fooled into believing this is a problem only south of the border.

We have already seen branches of the so called “Proud Boys,” attack a First Nations’ rally in Canada. Affiliates of the white supremacists behind Charlottesville are organizing in Canada. Their propaganda has been found postered in neighbourhoods all across the country.

It is true that we are living through difficult times because of increasing economic inequality. Many working people here and in the United States are losing their jobs, being forced to take low-paid and precrecarious work, struggling to make ends meet.

It is this vulnerability that racist haters, white supremists and neo-nazies are trying to exploit to pit us against each other.

We cannot let this happen.

Let’s be clear, it is not racialized people that are taking jobs away from working people or responsible for the increase in part-time, temporary low-wage jobs. It is the largely white corporate elite who keep shipping jobs off shore so they can exploit other racialized workers in sweatshops. They are the ones who rake in hundreds of billions in profits while cutting jobs, privatizing the things we all own in common and refusing to pay a living wage.

We must all rise together against racism and hate. It is only together that we can truly address the inequalities in our society.

 

 

Workplace laws need further changes: Horwath

The Changing Workplaces Review that kicked off an overdue discussion on raising wages was supposed to recognize how work has changed in Ontario. Sadly, it didn’t.

Proposed changes to the Labour Relations and Employment Standards Acts aren’t good enough, writes Andrea Horwath.
Proposed changes to the Labour Relations and Employment Standards Acts aren’t good enough, writes Andrea Horwath.  (CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANADIAN PRESS)  

I publicly committed to a $15 minimum wage in early 2016, and since then, the NDP has been proud to join together with the advocacy groups and unions that led the unrelenting push for a $15 wage.

Now, it’s up to Queen’s Park to do the right thing for workers. That means making sure wage increases actually happen — but it also means doing so much more to help the growing number of people in unstable work build stability.

The fact is, the Changing Workplaces Review that kicked off this overdue discussion was supposed to recognize how work has changed in Ontario. Sadly, it didn’t. Now, the proposed changes to the Labour Relations and Employment Standards Acts aren’t good enough.

Less stable work — like part-time and contract work — is quickly on the rise. Since Kathleen Wynne became premier, the number of people working more than one part-time job has shot up 20 per cent.

But the changes now on the table fall short of levelling the playing field for those workers. The bill is riddled with inconsistencies, giving some rights to some, not to others.

The NDP is now touring to hear feedback on this bill. It’s clear the bill fails to give temporary, part-time and contract workers more stability — and fails many other workers in other ways. After we’ve heard what people across the province have to say, I’ll be tabling a full package of meaningful amendments.

I can tell you now, there are a few issues my amendments will definitely address.

First, I believe workers with unstable, part-time and contract work should have access to paid sick and personal emergency days. It’s not right to force a person to choose between taking care of their health, or protecting their budget for the month.

Yet, those workers are restricted to just two days per year — meant to cover everything from illness to surgery, a flooded basement at home or a sick child.

I’ll be fighting for a reasonable number of paid days to cover illness and personal emergencies.

The bill also gives three weeks’ vacation only to those with five years of seniority in a job. That’s too long to wait, given the changed nature of work.

And it’s absolutely unacceptable that this bill doesn’t do more to provide support and flexibility for victims of domestic violence. An Ontario NDP motion over a year ago called for those escaping intimate partner abuse and assault to have access to 10 days of paid leave, flexible work arrangements and additional reasonable unpaid leave, if needed. Survivors may need time to get medical treatment both for their physical and mental health, to seek victims’ services or social services, to relocate to a shelter or safe home, and to participate in legal proceedings.

That motion passed unanimously. Then was ignored — left out of the new bill. That’s unacceptable.

My amendments will also recognize that workers in every workplace should have the right to choose to form a union. A union card is a ticket into the middle class, a promise of fairness and great stabilizing factor in the lives of Ontario workers.

Yet card-check certification, union successor rights and first-contract arbitration — all things that help workers to form a union and obtain their first, fair collective agreement — are limited to just some workers in some sectors.

That’s not good enough.

Workers and families deserve more stability. This is our opportunity. So let’s do something about it.

Andrea Horwath is leader of Ontario’s NDP.

Major labour law reform? Changing Workplace Review Final Report “majorly disappointing,” says CUPE Ontario President

TORONTO, ON – The long awaited Changing Workplaces Review Final Report proved a major disappointment today when after expecting major reform of Ontario’s labour law to make the legal right to join a union a practical reality for workers outside of traditional workplaces, the final report contained nothing of the sort.

“Rewriting Ontario’s Labour Relations Act and Employment Standards Act isn’t something any government can do every year or two so when it does happen, it makes sense to expect significant change” CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn said today.
“What happened to the major reforms that workers have been calling for with a virtually unanimous voice?  What happened to card based certification, anti-scab legislation, access to first contract arbitration and recognition of successor rights, they’re nowhere to be found. What happened to paid sick days for all workers?”

Hahn says if the government passes over these changes it will mean placing unionization literally out-of-reach for all those now struggling in precarious employment in Ontario.
Hahn says that doesn’t need to happen.   Despite the failure of the Changing Workplaces Review Final Report to include much needed and long expected major reforms, “they can and should be included” when the government brings forward legislation expected by many to come next week.

“It’s just not defensible in Ontario to say that some workers will have better access than others to constitutionally protected rights like meaningful access to collective bargaining that’s why it’s not unreasonable to expect the Ontario government will follow their federal counterparts and put these changes into legislation.  That’s what I’ll be looking for and I won’t be alone,” Hahn said.

For more information, contact: Sarah Jordison, CUPE Communications, 416-578-5638

www.cupe.on.ca

An Open Letter to the Peel District School Board Community

Mississauga, ON –

In recent weeks, Canadians have been rightly shocked by media reports of Islamophobia and hate being directed against members of the Peel District School Board (PDSB) community.

Unfortunately, the widely publicized, Islamophobic rhetoric and actions of some in the public galleries at the Peel District School Board’s March 22nd meeting is just one in a series of hate-filled incidents experienced by our school community over the last few months.

From vile attacks on elected school board trustees in public forums and a barrage of ugly comments on social media to the direct targeting of our students by ‘You Tube bounty’, our community is experiencing behavior that is not only deplorable but dangerous.

As education workers, we expect our employer, the Peel District School Board, to ensure our rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom are respected. This is what we want for ourselves, we desire for all others, and especially for our students.

As education workers and members of CUPE, we stand in full support of the PDSB’s effort to ensure students’ human rights are respected in our schools.

We also know that the hateful rhetoric and actions we’re seeing have nothing to do with the steps taken by the PDSB to ensure students’ rights.

They are meant to intimidate and spread hate.

Those who seek to explain away this behaviour as some normal part of a debate on accommodation are at best disingenuous and at worse, deceitfully trying to normalize bigotry.

There is nothing normal about the spewing of hatred, anger and Islamophobia.
It is wrong and it must stop.

As education workers, we do not tolerate bullying, hatred or Islamophobia in the hallways of our schools. As residents of Peel and members of CUPE Ontario, we will not tolerate it in our public Board meetings or in our broader political discourse.

But how should our community confront those behind these disgusting attacks when it is perfectly clear they want to elicit a response and gain attention? In other words, how do we not feed the trolls?

These are real tactical response questions that are unlikely to get easier in our current political climate, but there should never be a question about where we all stand when confronting hate in our community.

For us in CUPE, that is the easy answer.

First, we stand with and we will stand up for, the students of Peel District School Board. Each and every one of them deserves a safe, supportive school environment where they can learn, free from discrimination, bullying or hatred. As education workers, providing them with that environment is our foremost goal and we will always stand up for our students.

In that effort, we stand with the Peel District School Board against those who are spreading Islamophobia at our Board. We stand with the Board in demanding an end to hateful behaviour that is antithetical to creating a learning environment focussed student success. We stand with the Trustees of the Board who deserve to do their work, as our elected representatives, free of the harassment they’ve experienced these past few months.

Finally, we will stand with the Peel District School Board community in pursuit of an inclusive, cooperative and caring learning environment that is respectful of the human rights of all students, staff and parents.

We know in this effort, we do not stand alone.

Lisa Magee, President, CUPE Local 1628
Dan Bouchard, President, CUPE 2544
Terri Preston, Chair, CUPE Ontario School Board Coordinating Committee
Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario